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AI and education: Will chatbots soon teach your kids?

AI and education: Will chatbots soon teach your kids?

Sal Khan, chief executive of Khan Academy, gave an encouraging TED Talk last spring in which he predicted that AI chatbots would soon revolutionize education.

Mr Khan, whose non-profit education group has provided online lessons for millions of students, declared, “We are on the verge of using AI to possibly make the biggest positive change ever seen in education.” “And the way we're going to do that is by giving every student on the planet an artificially intelligent but amazing personal teacher.”

Videos of Mr Khan's Tuition Bot Talk Garnered millions of views. Soon, leading technology executives, including Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai, began issuing similar education predictions.

Mr. Khan's vision of teaching bots transformed a decades-old Silicon Valley dream: automated learning platforms that instantly customize lessons for each student. Proponents argue that developing such systems would help close the achievement gap in schools by providing relevant, personalized instruction to children faster and more efficiently than human teachers.

In pursuit of such ideals, tech companies and philanthropies have for years urged schools to buy a laptop for every child, supported video tutorial platforms and funded learning apps that customize lessons for students. Some? online mathematics And literacy intervention passed reported positive effects, but many education technology efforts passed Has not proven to significantly close the educational achievement gap Or improve student outcomes such as high school graduation rates.

Now the proliferation of generic AI tools like ChatGPT, which can answer biology questions and produce human-like book reports, is renewing enthusiasm for automated instruction — even with critics. warns that there is no evidence yet to support the notion that tutoring bots will change education for the better.

Online learning platforms like Khan Academy and Duolingo has introduced AI chatbot tutors based on GPT-4. It is a large language model developed by OpenAI, which is trained on a huge database of text and can generate answers in response to user prompts.

And some tech executives envision that, over time, bot teachers will be able to respond to and motivate individual students just like beloved human teachers.

“Imagine if you could give every student that kind of teacher, for free, 24/7, whenever they want,” greg brockmanThe president of OpenAI said in an episode last summer “Possible” Podcast, (The podcast is co-hosted by Reid Hoffman, an early investor in OpenAI.) “It's still a little bit science fiction,” Mr. Brockman said, “but it's a lot less science fiction than it used to be.”

The White House appears to be sold. recently executive Order On artificial intelligence, President Biden directs the government to “shape the potential of AI to transform education” By creating resources to support teachers deploying AI-enabled educational tools like personalized learning in schools, according to a White House fact sheet.

Still, some education researchers say schools should be cautious about promoting AI-assisted instruction.

For one thing, he points out, AI chatbots generically create stuff and may give students misinformation. Making AI tools a mainstay of education could elevate unreliable sources as classroom authorities. Critics also say that AI systems can be biased and are often opaque, making it difficult for teachers and students to understand how chatbots generate their answers.

In fact, generic AI tools could have harmful or “degenerative” effects on student learning, it said. ben williamsonChancellor's Fellow at the Center for Research in Digital Education at the University of Edinburgh.

“There is a race to declare the authority and usefulness of these types of chatbot interfaces and the underlying language models that power them,” Dr. Williamson said. “But the evidence doesn't yet exist that AI chatbots can provide those effects.”

Another concern: The hype over unproven AI chatbot tutors may detract from more traditional, human-centered interventions – Like universal access to preschool – it's proven To increase student graduation rates and college attendance.

There are also privacy and intellectual property issues. Many large language models are trained on huge databases of text that has been removed from the Internet, without compensation to the creators. This could be a problem for unionized teachers concerned about fair labor compensation. (The New York Times recently sued OpenAI and Microsoft over this issue.)

There are also concerns that some AI companies may use content input by teachers, or comments made by students, for their own commercial purposes, such as improving their chatbots.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, which has more than 1.7 million members, said her union is working with Congress on regulation to help ensure AI tools are fair and safe.

“Teachers use education technology every day, and they want to have more say over how technology is deployed in classrooms,” Ms. Weingarten said. “The goal here is to boost AI’s potential and protect against serious risks.”

This is perhaps the first time that education reformers have advocated automated learning tools. In the 1960s, proponents predicted that mechanical and electronic devices would be “teaching machines” – which were programmed to ask students questions on topics such as spelling or math – that would revolutionize education.

Popular Mechanics reflected the zeitgeist in an article in October 1961 Title: “Will Robots Teach Your Children?” It describes the “expansion of experimental machine learning” in schools across the United States in which students work independently, entering answers into the devices at their own pace.

The article also warned that the new machines raised some “serious” questions for teachers and children. Will teachers, the article asked, become “just a glorified babysitter”? And: “What impact does machine learning have on students' critical thinking?”

Cumbersome and didactic, teaching machines became a short-lived classroom sensation, both over-hyped and over-feared. The rollout of new AI teaching bots has followed a similar story of potential education change and pitfalls.

However, unlike the old learning machines of the 20th century, AI chatbots appear to be improvisational. They generate instant responses to individual students in conversational language. This means they can be funny, compelling, and engaging.

Some enthusiasts envision AI tutoring bots becoming study buddies that students can quietly consult without any embarrassment. If schools widely adopt such tools, they could profoundly change the way children learn.

This has inspired some former Big Tech executives to pursue education. Jerome Pesenti, former vice president of AI at Meta, recently founded a tutoring service Sizzle AI The app's AI chatbot uses a multiple-choice format to help students solve math and science questions.

And Jared Grused, former chief strategy officer of social media company Snap, co-founded a writing start-up called morally, The app's AI chatbot can help students organize and structure essays as well as provide feedback on their writing.

Mr Khan is one of the most prominent proponents of tutoring bots. Khan Academy last year introduced an AI chatbot named Khanmigo specifically for use in the school. It is designed to help students think about problems in math and other subjects – not to do their school work for them.

The system also stores conversations students have with Khanmigo so teachers can review them. And the site clearly warns users: “Khanmigo sometimes makes mistakes.” school in Indiana, New Jersey and other states are now pilot testing chatbot tutors.

Mr. Khan's approach to teaching bots can be traced to some extent to popular science fiction books such as “diamond age,'' a cyberpunk novel by Neal Stephenson. In that novel, a fictional tablet-like device is able to teach a young orphan exactly what she needs to know at exactly the right moment – ​​partly because it can instantly analyze her voice, facial expression, and surroundings.

Mr. Khan predicted that within about five years, tuition bots like Khanmigo would be able to do something similar with privacy and security guardrails.

“AI is just going to be able to look at the student's facial expression and say: 'Hey, I think you're a little distracted right now. Let's focus on this,'” Mr. Khan said.

https://static01.nyt.com/images/2024/01/04/multimedia/00tutoring-bots-khan-gwvp/00tutoring-bots-khan-gwvp-facebookJumbo.jpg

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